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The 2020/21 league calendar is insane. Plus: Antonio Conte’s weird transfer plan

Tour of Adidas Photo by Nicolas Armer/picture alliance via Getty Images

What in the world is Antonio Conte doing at Inter?

Hey, good for Jan Vertonghen, but it’s the second half of this tweet that we’re going to need to pay attention to.

Inter are now trying to bring Tanguy Ndombele to Serie A. I know José Mourinho hates Ndombele and has basically exiled him from the team, but I’m sorry — I just can’t take Antonio Conte seriously when it seems like his transfer strategy is “just sign anyone who ever played for Mourinho.”

Conte won the Premier League in 2017 after taking over Mourinho’s Chelsea. It seems like now his plan to win Serie A is... reassemble Mourinho’s teams?

Bold strategy Cotton, let’s see if it pays off for ‘em.

The Premier League has released their 2020/21 schedule

And it is a complete shitshow.

There is so much to unpack here, but basically it boils down to these insane levels of stupidity.

The European calendar is starting one month late but attempting to finish at their “normal” time. Basically they’re jamming a 10 month schedule into nine months...for no reason whatsoever. We’re going to need to get creative with the schedule in a couple of years to accommodate the 2022 World Cup anyway so what is the rush to get things back to “normal?”

There are a few options that could have been tried here.

  1. Play the season over 10 months, culminating in June, and simply start the 2021/22 season in September.
  2. Do the September-May schedule but scrap the October, November, and March international breaks. Use those weeks to play the makeup games. Run extra World Cup qualifiers in the summer of 2022 because... the World Cup isn’t until November!
  3. Scrap the League Cup (or even all domestic cups so it could be universal around Europe) for one season. Use those dates to play league fixtures.

Of course, because of the greedy money-grabbing vultures that UEFA/all high level football executives are, they chose none of those options.

Why? What sense does this make?

Pre-COVID-19, one of the biggest issue that players and coaches around Europe were trying to raise was of the players playing too much football. The sport was starting to accept that it needed to get the players more rest. Hell, the Premier League even added a winter break this year to help alleviate that problem!

Now we’re going to jam a 10-month season into nine months, then ask the players to play in the Euros next summer (there’s also a Copa America in 2021, an African Cup of Nations, and of course a Gold Cup so... international tournaments for everyone but Asia!), and then tell them to get ready for another 10-month season that’s going to start in August?

Are you nuts? If you thought Manchester United looked tired against Southampton and Crystal Palace, you just wait.

Snarky people will tell me they have no choice in the matter because Euro 2020(1) is set to kick off on June 11, but guess what: WE COULD MOVE THAT TOO! We literally just did!

UEFA were very quick to announce the new dates for Euro 2020, and everyone said the same thing then: this was a mistake. By doing that UEFA essentially shoehorned the calendar into what we have now.

Instead, UEFA should just push the Euros back until the end of June, play them through July, and start the 2021/22 season at the beginning of September. There’s still time to do this. Why are we rushing to get back to “normal?”

If they weren’t going to do this, at the very least they should have scrapped the international breaks. Don’t tell me that we need them for World Cup Qualifying — they could figure out another way to do that, like using the summer of 2022 since the World Cup doesn’t start until November. How good will World Cup Qualifying even be when all the top players are withdrawing from the squad with injuries even more than usual?

(This is great news if you’re from Wales. At least you know Gareth Bale will be fresh for all your matches and running against extremely tired legs.)

This schedule leaves no room for anything. If United or City reach the Europa League or Champions League finals next week, they’re supposed to start the season a week later than everyone else (still a bad idea). When will that game be made up? Unless they get bounced from one of the cups, there ain’t time!

What if they win those finals? They’ll have to miss another game to play in the ultimate final — the UEFA Super Cup. When will that game be made up? What if City win it all and have to go to the FIFA Club World Cup? They’ll miss two games for that, when will they be made up?

For United, you only have to hope that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sees this, marches straight to Ed Woodward and says “you have to be nuts to think we can handle this schedule with only three new signings.” Bring in players.

It’s not just about the Sancho or Grealish types either — it’s about getting legs that can eat minutes.

It’s not like United have a fresh slew of players coming from the academy. Tahith Chong is going out on loan (he needs to). Mason Greenwood is already a first teamer. Angel Gomes and Largie Ramazani have left the club. Those were the forwards who played vs Astana.

James Garner and Dylan Levitt have also been linked to loans, and those moves should go ahead for the good of their development. They need to play week in week out. We need players who we don’t care if they only make 10 appearances.

United should get creative — sign a few players from the Championship on loans with an option to buy. Maybe you unearth a gem, probably not. But with no buying obligation you just return them at the end of the season, and for a small fee United get someone to fill in occasionally so that Rashford’s legs don’t fall off.

Ultimately, next year is going to be really weird. It wouldn’t shock me to see the bigger teams completely mail in the cups so they could get a week to 10 days where they could give some senior players time off.

So it wouldn’t shock me to see some interesting names in the semifinals of both cups. It also wouldn’t shock me to see a very weird looking league table at the end of the year.

The season is basically tailor made for City, the only club in the Premier League whose squad goes about 23 players deep. For the rest of the league it’s going to be about whose best players avoided the most injuries.

But hey, at least they got rid of the second leg for the League Cup semifinal and all FA Cup replays. That’ll solve it!